Helen Jane (Strimple) Wilson -- devoted wife, daughter, sister, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, aunt, mother-in-law, sister-in-law, teacher, educator, manager, volunteer, and friend --- died peacefully at home at age 91 with family around her on August 7, 2017 at Vancouver, WA after a short illness.
Helen Jane was born at her family's home in Kent, Ohio on Thanksgiving Day, November 26, 1925, the daughter of Ross B. and Helen L. (Reed) Strimple. Her maternal grandfather was W.W. Reed, a long-time benefactor of the City of Kent, whose contributions included appointment as Postmaster of Kent by four Presidents, starting with President Theodore Roosevelt, and whose passions included the founding of Kent State University and the founding of the Kent Chamber of Commerce. Her only sibling, Reed B. Strimple, preceded her in death in 2011.
Helen Jane graduated from Theodore Roosevelt High School in Kent, where she was a graduation speaker and received her diploma from her father, who was the Kent Board of Education president at the time. She graduated after three years in 1946 from nearby Hiram College, where she had met Don M. Wilson, Jr., who was from Ravenna, the Portage County seat neighboring Kent.
Helen Jane married Mr. Wilson at her home in June, 1946. They were wed for nearly 59 years. Mr. Wilson preceded her in death in 2005. All their five sons survive: Don M. Wilson, III (Lynn) of Greenwich, CT, Jeffrey M. Wilson (Brenda) of Boise, ID, Gary M. Wilson (Elaine) of Vancouver, WA, Richard M. Wilson (Joan) of Kiawah Island, SC, and William R. Wilson (Victoria) of Seattle, WA. Additionally, twelve grandchildren and eleven great-grandchildren survive. One grandson pre-deceased in 1990.
After her sons were reared, Helen Jane went from homemaking to teaching. She taught and administered in the Ravenna School System 1967-1989, while at the same time earning at age 59 an M.Ed. in 1984 from Kent State University. After retirement, Helen Jane began another career as the Coordinator for 19 years of Adult Basic and Literacy Education at Maplewood Career Center in Ravenna, where she was also the first Executive Director of the Portage County Literacy Coalition, whose work she continued for 13 years until her retirement at age 77. Thereafter, Helen Jane moved with her husband to Vancouver, WA to be near several of their sons and their families. During her multiple careers Helen Jane received numerous accolades and awards for her many personal and professional achievements, including induction into the Ravenna Ravens Hall of Fame in 2003.
Helen Jane was a member of the First Congregational Church of Ravenna for 70 years, a charter member of Coterie III in Kent, a long-time member of Beta Sorosis in Ravenna, a member of the Order of the Eastern Star, a member of the General Society of Mayflower Descendants (12th generation) and a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (6th generation). Helen Jane Wilson had myriad virtues, extraordinary energy, high standards, a gift for leadership, uncompromising loyalty, and a terrific memory. Her hands and eyes created beautiful works of needlepoint and crochet art throughout her lifetime, and Helen Jane was excellent cook.
Calling hours will be Thursday, August 17, 2-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m., at Bissler & Sons Funeral Home, West Main Street in Kent. Funeral services will be at 11:00 a.m. Friday, August 18 at the First Congregational Church of Ravenna, South Chestnut Street, with Rev. Derek Starr Redwine, son of Helen Jane's niece, Judy Strimple Redwine, presiding. Private graveside services will follow at Maple Grove Cemetery in Ravenna. Memorial gifts may be made to the 'Don and Helen Jane Wilson Scholarship Fund' at the Portage County Literacy Coalition, 7075 State Route 88, Ravenna, Ohio 44266.
(Bissler & Sons Funeral Home 330-673-5857 RC 8-10-17)